Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services Defends $941 Million Spending Request

(The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services needs $941 million extra in its budget this year to service the state’s aging population. For some lawmakers, however, the “overspend” represents years of mismanagement under Gov. Tom Wolf that’s led to a 40% increase in the DHS’s budget since he took office in 2015. …

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Pennsylvania Lost 500,000 Jobs in 2020

(The Center Square) — Pennsylvania lost 500,000 jobs in 2020, the Department of Labor and Industry said, and there’s no understanding of when – or if – those positions will return.  “We don’t know the reason why they were lost or if they are coming back,” acting Secretary of Labor Jennifer Berrier told the House Appropriations Committee …

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Republicans hammer education leaders over proposed charter school cuts in Pennsylvania

By Christen Smith (the Center Square)  (The Center Square) – Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives pressed the Department of Education on Monday over the governor’s proposed cuts to charter school funding, even as the public districts meant to benefit sit on millions in reserves and federal disaster aid, they said. The questions came …

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Pennsylvania Governor Frames Charter School Reforms as Better for Taxpayers

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday that cutting funding and increasing accountability for underperforming charter schools makes better use of taxpayer dollars than the current system. “If we don’t fix the problems in our charter schools now, we are setting our children up for failure and that’s unacceptable,” Wolf said during a news …

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Bipartisan Cannabis Legalization Bill Emerges In Pennsylvania Senate

(The Center Square) – A bipartisan duo of senators introduced a measure Wednesday to legalize adult use cannabis in Pennsylvania. It’s the first time a Republican member of the chamber has cosponsored the proposal – typically endorsed solely by Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. “That’s kind of the elephant in the room, …

Read moreBipartisan Cannabis Legalization Bill Emerges In Pennsylvania Senate

Bipartisan Cannabis Legalization Bill Emerges in Pennsylvania Senate

By Christen Smith | The Center Square (The Center Square) – A bipartisan duo of senators introduced a measure Wednesday to legalize adult use cannabis in Pennsylvania. It’s the first time a Republican member of the chamber has cosponsored the proposal – typically endorsed solely by Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. “That’s kind …

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PennDOT: Plans to Add Tolls to Nine Bridges ‘Not Definitive’ Yet

(The Center Square) – The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said Tuesday specifics about a plan to toll nine bridges across the state remains under development, though drivers may see the fees as soon as 2023. “Nothing is final,” Transportation Secretary Yassmin Gramian said during a House Appropriations Committee budget hearing. “Nothing is definite yet.” The plan – a result of …

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Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf Signs Fourth Emergency Declaration

(The Center Square) – Gov. Tom Wolf signed a 90-day statewide emergency declaration for COVID-19 on Friday, the fourth such order since March 6, 2020. “COVID-19 vaccinations have begun, but we are still in the early stages of vaccine administration,” he said. “We will continue to prioritize a safe, efficient and equitable distribution process, and expect vaccinations …

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Increases to Pennsylvania Corrections Budget Despite Prison Closures, Smaller Population Lead to Lawmaker Questions

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania lawmakers wanted to know this week how the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary could justify seeking more for its annual budget at a time when overall inmate populations are dropping. Corrections Secretary John Wetzel is asking for a 2.5 percent increase, and during Wednesday’s budget hearing before the House Appropriations …

Read moreIncreases to Pennsylvania Corrections Budget Despite Prison Closures, Smaller Population Lead to Lawmaker Questions

IFO: Raising Minimum Wage in Pennsylvania Would Increase Economic Growth, Hike Costs For Employers

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office said Tuesday that raising the state’s minimum wage would stimulate economic growth, even though it increases costs for employers. “It would overall increase economic growth because it is an income transfer from higher income to lower income individuals,” said Matthew Knittel, executive director of the IFO, the state’s independent fiscal …

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Pennsylvania Health Officials Place New Demands On Vaccine Providers

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania health officials said Friday vaccine providers must hit new administration benchmarks or risk a cut to their weekly supply. Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam told reporters that providers must administer 80 percent of their supply as first doses to residents covered under vaccination Phase 1A within seven days. The …

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Pennsylvania Governor ‘Confident’ Minimum wage Hike Could get Bipartisan Support

By Christen Smith | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said he’s confident Republicans may support raising the state’s minimum wage, even if it’s to a rate lower than his proposed $15 an hour. “I think Republicans in the House and Senate have already shown an appetite for raising the minimum …

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PENNSYLVANIA FORMS LEGISLATIVE COVID-19 TASK FORCE

(The Center Square) – Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday his administration will lead a joint legislative COVID-19 task force – including lawmakers from both parties – to improve the state’s vaccine rollout. The decision follows months of complaints from Republican majorities in the House and Senate that center on the administration’s unilateral policymaking on pandemic …

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Shortages, Chaotic Registration Plague Pennsylvania’s Slow Vaccination Rollout

By Christen Smith | The Center Square (The Center Square) – Shortages of COVID-19 vaccine supply and a “chaotic” online registration process undermine Pennsylvania’s immunization efforts, experts said Monday. Health officials testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee that while the state’s current system needs adjusting, complaints will continue until vaccine supply from the federal government …

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Pennsylvania charter schools face cuts in governor’s education-focused spending plan

(The Center Square) – Gov. Tom Wolf’s $37.8 billion spending proposal prioritizes a $2 billion boost in public education funding to tackle crumbling school buildings, stagnating teacher salaries and dwindling achievement among disadvantaged students. But charter schools and the 170,000 students they serve across the state would see their funding cut under the governor’s plan through policies …

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Business-aligned groups pan Pennsylvania’s proposed $3 billion tax hike as more details emerge

(The Center Square) – More details emerged Wednesday about Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to hike personal income taxes on the top third of earners, claiming in his annual budget address that the rest would see no increase at all. Wolf said charging “financially secure” residents more to help those with less succeed while directing those …

Read moreBusiness-aligned groups pan Pennsylvania’s proposed $3 billion tax hike as more details emerge

Pennsylvania’s School Choice Debate More Fraught than Ever Amid Pandemic

It’s National School Choice week, and public debate about whether lawmakers should prioritize traditional districts or ease limitations on their public and private alternatives seems more fraught than ever. In Pennsylvania, the discourse targets the same players – teachers unions face blame for fighting to keep in-person instruction limited, parents fearful of the virus want …

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Pennsylvania’s health indicators brace for impact from COVID-19

A new report finds residents in Pennsylvania struggle with obesity, suicide and racial disparities in health outcomes, and the pandemic’s impact on all three could make the problems worse. The data comes from the 31st annual America’s Health Rankings analysis, compiled by the United Health Foundation. While the foundation decided against providing an overall ranking …

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Pennsylvania Health Officials Launch Provider Map For COVID-19 Vaccinations

Residents now included in Pennsylvania’s expanded first phase of its COVID-19 immunization plan can find available providers through an interactive map on the Department of Health website. The department said last week it is ready to vaccinate residents age 65 or older and those under 64 with preexisting health conditions – including cancer to heart …

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Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Levine Tapped for Biden Administration

President-elect Joe Biden looked no further than Pennsylvania when selecting his administration’s next assistant secretary of health. He tapped state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine for the role over the weekend, describing her as a “historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.” “Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady …

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Revised CDC Guidance Shakes up Pennsylvania’s Vaccination Plan

Revised federal guidance that expands the pool of Americans eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine left Pennsylvania health officials scrambling to rethink their statewide immunization plan.  Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said Wednesday that when the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said residents age 65 or older or with preexisting health conditions …

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Federal Judge Validates Pennsylvania Senator Jim Brewster’s Election Victory

By Christen Smith (The Center Square) – A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Pennsylvania state senator won reelection on Nov. 3, tossing out a last-minute challenge from his opponent that delayed his seating in the chamber last week. Sen. Jim Brewster, D-Monroeville, defeated Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli in the state’s 45th district by just …

Read moreFederal Judge Validates Pennsylvania Senator Jim Brewster’s Election Victory

State Encourages Schools to Resume In-Person Learning after Jan 25

State officials encouraged districts across Pennsylvania to resume in-person learning for elementary students on Jan. 25 as they see fit.  “This is not mandatory,” Acting Education Secretary Noe Ortega said Thursday. “It’s up to school leaders whether or not local factors permit kids to return to in-person instruction.” The guidance comes after many schools transitioned …

Read moreState Encourages Schools to Resume In-Person Learning after Jan 25

Pennsylvania Senate Delays Seating Member Over Last Minute Election Challenge

By Christen Smith (The Center Square) – Pennsylvania state Sen. Jim Brewster, D-Monroeville, who won reelection in November by just 69 votes, won’t be sworn in with the rest of his colleagues Tuesday after his November opponent filed a last-minute challenge against the certified results. Republican challenger Nicole Ziccarelli petitioned Senate President Pro Tempore Jake …

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Restaurants in Pennsylvania find creative ways to survive amid pandemic restrictions

By Christen Smith | The Center Square It’s been two weeks since Gov. Tom Wolf banned indoor dining and alcohol sales at restaurants statewide amid an alarming spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. And for many owners, abiding by the rules – devastating as they may be – remains a top priority, even if it challenges everything …

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Department of Health says Pennsylvania COVID-19 Cases Waning After Latest Restrictions

By Christen Smith | The Center Square The latest round of COVID-19 restrictions helped slow Pennsylvania’s skyrocketing infection rate, health officials said Monday, though residents must “stay the course” to see rules relaxed in the coming year. “It’s critically important to continue our mitigation efforts and really not to get together in gatherings on New …

Read moreDepartment of Health says Pennsylvania COVID-19 Cases Waning After Latest Restrictions

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